Everything has to start somewhere, and in the case of the ubiquitous and financially troubled Sbarro pizza that place was Brooklyn at the delicatessen started by Carmela and Gennaro Sbarro. Gennaro died in 1984 and, Newsday reports, on Saturday Carmela—also known as "Mama Sbarro"—passed away as well. She was 90.

Carmela first started working at a Naples butcher shop before she was 10 years old and soon enough met her future husband, Gernnaro, who worked across the street. In 1956 the pair moved across the Atlantic and soon opened their first shop in Brooklyn. With cured meats all around the fresh prosciutto and cheese hanging from the ceiling it was not the Sbarro you know. But it did well and

Eventually, the deli took over the block. The family expanded to pizza-making, and Carmela Sbarro, who ran the company with her husband and three sons, became the face of an international chain.

"She was the company's mascot. She was 'Mama Sbarro,' " said granddaughter Carmela Merendino, 48, of Melville. "She was everybody's mama. People from all over would say, 'Hi, Mama.' "

From there the company expanded into pizza and then just kept on expanding, thanks to franchises, as Americans came to love the the company's pies (just ask Michael Scott!).

Over the years at Sbarro, Carmela played a number of roles. She oversaw food production for the Melville-based company and was in charge of quality control. The Brooklyn location, though, was "where you'd find her," Merendino said. She'd serve customers sandwiches alongside a very large slice of cheesecake, and worked there into her 80s, preparing meats and desserts.

"She was a typical grandma," Merendino said. "She'd try to take care of everyone and feed them." And she'd ask customers, 'Do you want a drink? You look like you're hungry.' "

The family sold its share in the company in 2007 and the original shop in Brooklyn closed in 2004 after Carmela suffered a stroke. For the last eight years she had been living in an assisted-living home in Huntington Terrace, where her children say she had been suffering from dementia. Sbarro is survived by sons Joseph and Anthony, 13 grandchildren, and 33 great-grandchildren.